The six firms which are competing for the IAF contract worth billions of dollars are Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin’s F-16 Fighting Falcon, Dassault Aviation’s Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Saab’s Gripen and Russian United Aircraft Corporation’s MiG-35.
“All six firms have responded to the RFI,” said IAF government sources. Friday was the last day for responding to the RFI.
The aircraft makers which responded to the RFI would have mentioned the operational and technical parameters of their military platforms. They have also indicated the fly-away price of the aircraft. The IAF will now draft its technical requirements for the tenders that can be issued within the next three to six months. The competition to give India’s new fighter jet will start after the global players respond to these tenders. As per current plans, Indian private sector manufacturers are expected to tie up with the winning global player to manufacture these planes in India.
The six firms had competed in an earlier attempt to provide 126 fighter aircraft to the IAF, known as the Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) program. The MMRCA was scrapped after Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April 2015 had announced that India would instead procure 36 Rafale jets from France in a government to government deal.
Later, the defence ministry had another plan of procuring 114 single engine fighter jets with foreign collaboration at an estimated cost of Rs 1.15 lakh crore. This plan was also scrapped earlier this year. In April, the defence ministry issued a RFI to procure 110 fighter jets. This project includes both single and twin engine fighter aircraft. Two of the competitors in this contest are single engine fighter- the F-16 and the Gripen, while the remaining four are twin-engined.
According to the RFI, the procurement of the 110 aircraft should have 15 per cent aircraft in fly away condition and the remaining 85 per cent to be made in India by a Strategic Partner. Through the RFI, the ministry has invited global aviation manufacturers to participate in the project and offer Transfer of Technology for the indigenous manufacture of the aircraft in India.
The program is a crucial requirement of the IAF, which currently has a reduced strength of 31 fighter squadrons (each having 18 jets), when it actually requires 42 to tackle the collusive threat of Pakistan and China.
But, IAF is separately making efforts to further strengthen its combat capabilities with the induction of the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft. Defence PSU, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), is currently working on manufacturing 123 Tejas LCA for the IAF. Out of these 40 are Mark 1 version and the remaining 83 are Mark 1A version.
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